Being a superintendent: It’s not as easy as we make it look

By |  November 13, 2015 0 Comments

mark_woodward_smallGolf is hard enough for 98 percent of golfers who enjoy playing the game, but as each year passes the business of golf gets harder for those of us who make a living in this industry. ¶ Thinking about where our industry has gone in the past couple of decades makes you realize that nothing about what superintendents do is easy. Regulatory compliance issues are tightening around us every day. For years we have dealt with environmentally related issues at our facilities, issues such as fuel storage (aboveground and underground storage tanks), the proper way to dispose of oils, waste management, wetlands compliance, spill prevention and nutrient use, just to mention a few.

GCSAA’s government relations department continues to do good work on all of these issues and annually looks at and refines its legislative agenda, which includes items like ADA, fertilizer, labor/immigration, pesticides, the value of golf and water management.

That helps, but the superintendent’s day-to-day life still is complicated when you throw in issues like human resource management, business management, budgeting, dealing with boards, greens committees, homeowners (if your course is surrounded by homes) and managing highly technical irrigation systems. The amazing list of so-called “routine” daily tasks on superintendents’ plates goes on and on.

Factor in golfers’ expectations on top of everything else, and some days it’s amazing that we ever get to see our golf courses. I jokingly say that if it weren’t for the golfers, this would be a great job. Space constraints don’t even allow me to get into the work/life balancing act that superintendents must try to maintain.

I’m starting to believe that this would be a great job if it weren’t for all the government regulations and compliance issues. I’ve been in the business long enough to know and understand why compliance issues are important. Most regulatory mandates are put in place because someone somewhere at some time has screwed up and done something detrimental to the environment or has caused harm to someone or something. I get that. It’s the same reason they put warning labels on hair dryers that tell you not to shower while blow-drying your hair.

Some compliance regulations appear to be voted on and approved without a lot of thought put into them. That’s why when I was the CEO of GCSAA we worked closely with the allied associations (initially the GCSAA, PGA of America, NGCOA and CMAA) to start National Golf Day, “We Are Golf” and some of the other programs that GCSAA still focuses on today. I’m proud of the association for continuing to look out for our best interests.

WOTUS is a perfect example of an issue that we need to understand fully before we can judge its impact on our facilities. GCSAA also offers the Grassroots Ambassadors program, which allows members to participate in industry and association government relations efforts. These programs are designed to help educate policymakers locally and nationally and to protect the interests of our industry. But we all should be ambassadors for the industry in which we work.

A superintendent’s job is not an easy one, and I don’t anticipate it getting any easier as time goes by. We make it look easy most of the time, but if it were easy, anyone could do it. We all know that’s not the case.

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